British Jews no longer feel safe bringing up their children in the UK and some are considering leaving the country, the former chief rabbi has claimed as pressure mounts on Jeremy Corbyn to act over accusations of antisemetism going unpunished in the Labour Party.
Lord Sacks’s comments were followed by a warning from former prime minister Gordon Brown that the row over Mr Corbyn’s response to claims of antisemitism was a battle for “the soul of the Labour Party”.
Mr Brown told a gathering of Jewish Labour activists that the party must “unanimously, unequivocally and immediately” adopt the internationally agreed definition of antisemitism to begin repairing the damage from the row.
Labour’s National Executive is expected to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) declaration on antisemitism after months of resistance when it meets this week, with Mr Corbyn’s deputy John McDonnell pledging: “It will be resolved.”
But in a TV interview yesterday, Lord Sacks insisted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must also “recant and repent” over remarks regarding Zionism which he claimed risked engulfing the UK “in the flames of hatred”.
The crossbench peer said: “Jews have been in Britain since 1656, I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews – the majority of our community – are asking, ‘Is this country safe to bring up our children?’.
“Anyone who uses the term ‘Zionist’ loosely, without great care, is in danger of engulfing Britain in the kind of flames of hatred that have reappeared throughout Europe, and is massively irresponsible.”
Lord Sacks was criticised by Labour for comparing Mr Corbyn’s comments to Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech that targeted racial minorities, but refused to back down, adding: “There is danger that Jeremy Corbyn may one day be prime minister, he is the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and I’m afraid that until he expresses clear remorse for what he has said and what his party has done to its Jewish sympathisers as well as its Jewish MPs, then he is as great a danger as Enoch Powell was.”
Addressing the Jewish Labour Movement conference in north London, Mr Brown got a standing ovation for warning of growing antisemitism among the “conspiracy theorist” left as well as the “jack-booted” right.
“This is a problem that is real and present and something that’s got to be dealt with now,” he said. “I believe that the Labour Party must and should change the policy.”